Students express discontent over provost search at Campus Conversation with Board of Trustee chair

By Kallie Cox, News Editor

At the second Campus Conversation, students spoke about their discontent with the search for the provost with Judge J. Phil Gilbert, chair of the Board of Trustees.

The current provost, Meera Komarraju, is an interim and a search has been launched to find a permanent provost. 

Student trustee Brione Lockett, said one big issue on campus is hiring protocol and procedures.

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Lockett said he was concerned about the current search for a new Provost.

See more: (USG meeting announces search for permanent provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs)

“I don’t feel that the campus thinks it’s a fair search that will be occurring,” Lockett said. “‘The fix is in’ is the phrase I’ve heard recently, that our current interim provost will be the permanent provost.”

Lockett said there has been some under performance in the provost’s area. He asked Gilbert how the campus could have a new chancellor come in with a provost or other individuals that have a great deal of baggage behind their names and still expect this part of the SIU system to grow.

Gilbert said baggage is in the eye of the beholder, and the board is trying to move away from SIU being known as an ‘interim university.’ 

See more: (With over 40 interim positions in administration SIU still can’t hire from outside the university to fill them)

“One of the goals I think of this board is to add some stability,” Gilbert said. “Interim Chancellor [John] Dunn is going to be in the process of taking the interim tag off several people, but that doesn’t mean they’re permanent. Everybody on this university, in administration, serves at the pleasure of the president and the board. ”

Gilbert said nothing is permanent, and the new chancellor could evaluate the new provost and decide to reassign them. He said it is going to come down to performance. 

“I don’t know anything about the search, but let’s just assume Meera is going to have the interim tag taken off,” Gilbert said. “She may have a two or three-year contract, but if the new chancellor comes in and after evaluating her he could reassign her.”

Dianah McGreehan, vice president for administrative affairs of the Graduate Student Professional Council, said she doesn’t want the “I” in SIU to stand for internal search.

McGreehan asked Gilbert how the board and administration are going to ensure SIU is hiring the best quality people, and student interest is seen as a priority during the search.

Gilbert said he would like to have “home grown” people serving in positions at SIU.

“When you look at the big picture, we are going to have a president from the outside,” Gilbert said. “We are going to have a chancellor from the outside, and we want some stability for that new president and new chancellor to do some adjustment and some own evaluation.”

Jeremy Allen, a graduate doctoral student studying sociology, said it is counter intuitive to maintain the old provost in the name of stability.

“If we don’t like the direction the university is going, then why do we want to continue with the leadership that are taking us in that direction?” Allen said.

Allen said as a student, it is his understanding that internal searches favor the incumbent. 

“If the incumbent is part of the problem with the direction the university is going, why are we conducting an internal search?” Allen said. “On the one hand, we said we don’t like where we are going. On the other hand, we say we need to continue that direction.”

Gilbert said the status of the university cannot be blamed on a provost.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily faulting the status of this university on a provost, I think it’s just saying that it’s not a fair search,” a student in the audience said in response to Gilbert. “How are we to know that we have a good candidate or a better candidate than the provost, […] if the search isn’t open externally? How are we to know what else we can look for in a candidate?”

Gilbert said if the search process that has been laid out is being followed, it is automatically a fair search. 

“I understand there is going to be disagreement with any search, with anybody that’s hired,” Gilbert said. “You are not going to agree with everything, but as long as the process is being followed, it’s a fair search whether you agree or disagree with who gets hired or not.”

Gilbert said it is going to be up to Dunn to make the hires.

 “If they turn out to be bad hires, the new chancellor is going to be making changes,” Gilbert said.

News Editor Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] of on Twitter @KallieECox. 

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